Andrej Meszaros did his best to prove he deserves to stay in the Flyers’ lineup, at least through the weekend.
The Flyers’ defenseman, who’s spent about half the season watching his team from the stands, racked up three assists in the Flyers’ 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night.
It was the first time he accomplished such a feat since 2006 –- his rookie year.
“I’m just going game by game, and trying to do my best out there,” Meszaros said. “Trying to help the offense as much as I can, and be solid in the defensive zone.”
To say it’s been an “up-and-down” season for the 28-year-old would be putting it mildly. Meszaros has played just 24 games in 2013-14, the first year in a while he’s been healthy. The team’s coaches liked their other options so much more that the Flyers were paying Meszaros $67,073.17 per game not to suit up.
But he’s now played eight games in a row, his most consecutive games this season. Though he said he’s felt good in plenty of other outings, if Wednesday night is any indication, it’s paying dividends.
“It’s good for the confidence for any player, not just me,” Meszaros said. “Obviously, it’s tough when you’re in and out of the lineup. And when you get a chance to play a bunch of games in a row, it helps your confidence.”
Another thing that helped his confidence? Meszaros was recently named to Team Slovakia, and will represent his home country at next month’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“Yeah [it helps],” he said. “Obviously, it’s an honor to be selected, and I’m looking forward to that. When you’re there, and you’re representing your country, it’s always a big thing. I’m obviously happy about it.”
But even before he learned he’d be heading to Sochi, Meszaros was starting to turn a corner. Since returning to the Flyers’ lineup Dec. 23, he has five assists and a plus-5 rating. He’s averaging a solid 16:42 a night over that span.
More importantly, though, he’s feeling comfortable.
“He’s played good hockey,” coach Craig Berube said. “He’s come in and played really well since Gus [Erik Gustafsson] went down. He had a real good game [Wednesday], but overall, he’s improving all the time.
“He’s a good offensive defenseman. He’s a good all-around defenseman who can do a lot of different things. He can skate, he can shoot the puck, he can defend. So, he’s a valuable guy.”
The issue for Meszaros, however, is exactly what Berube mentioned: His return to the lineup happened only after Gustafsson sprained his knee. According to general manager Paul Holmgren, Gustafsson could return as soon as Saturday, when the Flyers host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Though Berube said he’s “not there yet” in terms of making a decision on what happens when Gustafsson returns, there’s no question Meszaros is making a case to stay.
After all, that's all he can do.
“It’s up to the coaches who’s going to be in the lineup,” Meszaros said. “The only thing I can control is play my best, and we’ll see what happens.”